As a workforce professional, I have finally overloaded on the term “skills gap”. I subscribe to a content aggregator, so that might be part of the problem, but I just don’t want to see another article that describes most workforce problems as skills gaps. Hiring challenges are about much more than skills. In fact, it’s a bit like the conversations I hear socially. To whit: “I simply can’t find anyone I’d like to date.” “The ‘marriage pool’ is too shallow.”
The consulting firm, Accenture, has just released its 2013 “Skills and Employment Trends Survey: Perspectives on Training” and, as expected, the report states that 46 percent of U.S. executives say they are still facing skills gaps in their industries.1 I have no doubt that these executives find it laborious to scope out the perfect candidate, but I feel I must quibble about some common recruitment and hiring approaches. Sometimes the perfect person is right in front of your nose, but you don’t know it because you are not sure what you want. To get the right employees, an employer must thoroughly understand the company’s long-term as well as short-term goals, the technologies needed to get from here to there, the skills that can make that possible, the ways in which those skills can be kept up so demand can be met, and how to compensate employees according to their values so they stick around (hint: it’s not always money).
Accenture believes employers must invest in workforce strategies earlier than recruitment and create new strategies aligned with talent management writ large. And a report by Josh Bersin 2 recommends that manufacturers build a supply chain of skills, because talent gaps take years to fill. Bersin’s report provides examples from firms that reorganize their training functions into “capability development” functions and approach their skills acquisition and development as multi-year programs.
I have begun to think about talent management as I do marriage; one must spend a considerable amount of time understanding oneself and one’s needs in order to make the best choice about partnering up. And while we all know that there no longer exists a lifetime contract when someone is hired, continued investment in the employment “relationship” usually provides the kinds of returns you might expect in any relationship: less turnover, greater employee satisfaction, innovation, customer satisfaction, and enhanced profitability. Employers won’t experience those positive returns to their talent pipeline if the initial investment is faulty. And marriages don’t work when people make hasty choices. If you are going to spend a lot of time (and money) with someone, you want to make that first choice the right one. So employers should start early in building their talent pipelines and workforce management systems. Long-term planning and continuity beats the cost of “divorce” any day, and helps keep the “skills gap” at bay.
1 Gaul, Patty. Nearly Half of U.S. Executives are Concerned About the Skills Gap. T+D Magazine. Page 18. ASTD February 2014.
2 Bersin, Josh. Predictions for 2014. Bersin by Deloitte. December 2013.